Become a better cook by eating in someone else’s kitchen
It’s over. Finally. And thank God for that. While the never-ending winter of 2017–2018 gave all of us in Canada plenty of opportunity to binge watch Netflix, rediscover the joys of cooking at home and develop a major case of claustrophobic shack whack, we can all shed our cocoons now and, butterfly-like, flutter out to rediscover the world. Wait, it’s September — it’s about to start all over again.
Though the time spent in your winter kitchen probably goes a long way in honing your knife skills, you’re no doubt ready to hang up your apron — or at least turn it over to someone else. So here are a few alternatives to get you out of your own cooking space. Perhaps even explore someone else’s kitchen that’s actually located within another kitchen. Let me explain …
There’s a kitchen in downtown Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle Hotel. “Yeah, duh!” you say. But wait. There’s also another kitchen inside this kitchen. (Ha! Didn’t see that coming, did ya?) Savoury is the name of the kitchen within a kitchen. And it’s also a restaurant. Sort of. I’ll explain. Actually, no, I’ll let Savoury’s chef, Corbin Tomaszeski (of Food Network fame), do the explaining. It’s his ship, after all.
“The vision behind Savoury is simple: work with quality ingredients to create a memorable experience that will stay with those who dine with us forever. By using locally sourced ingredients and preparing them in a way unique to my style, I want to ensure each guest feels as though they’ve been invited into my own personal kitchen, in my own home.”
So, if you have a group of people (minimum five, maximum 10), I’d highly recommend you give Savoury a try. My experience there was indeed memorable. Not only was the food excellent and creatively prepared by Tomaszeski and sous chef Matt Munro, there were also unique wine matches courtesy of sommelier Jeremy Ennis. Not only was the experience a gastronomic treat, but it was also something of a show as Tomaszeski, Munro and Ennis played off each other in a thoroughly entertaining way.
Another option, if you’re interested in availing yourself to (and dining in) someone else’s kitchen but want to sharpen your culinary chops at the same time, involves a trip to scenic Prince Edward County. Home to a maturing but still growing wine culture, and a burgeoning micro-brewing scene, the County is also quickly becoming a culinary destination.
When he retired from his position with the Ontario provincial liquor board, Angelo Bean [pictured above] packed up his love of food, wine and entertainment — and most of his worldly possessions — and headed off to the County. Already established as a producer of artisanal sausages and cured meats, Bean saw it fit to offer his culinary knowledge to others via the Angelo Bean Italian Cooking Studio.
With a home kitchen decked out in high-end industrial restaurant guise, Bean offers Italian cooking classes that are informative, entertaining and, ultimately, deliciously rewarding.
“My classes offer an experience in food entertainment,” Bean explains. “Students come to my home to experience my life in the County. The cantina, the décor, the outdoor settings … everything has a story and a meaning.”
When asked what makes his particular classes unique, Bean says, “They are totally unique, like taking a trip back in time. They are original; all recipes and content are my own. There are no standard recipes. They are personal: guests become immediate friends as they come through the door. The classes are simple but extremely complex in the details.”
Bean sources ingredients from the County first, Ontario second and then Italy for ingredients not available locally. Classes are generally attended by eight to 10 people and will occasionally have themes, such as Pasta 101 and 102, risotto, sauces, sausage making, salumi tasting and tasting menus. My visit included a hearty (and very tasty), multi-course tasting menu.
If Bean’s emphasis on local ingredients appeals to you, feasting on meals prepared from stuff literally grown in the backyard might be your ultimate indulgence. The New Farm offers this kind of experience in the form of The New Farm Kitchen.
Located on the crest of the Niagara Escarpment, west of Creemore, Ontario, The New Farm is a certified organic family farm owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Gillian Flies and Brent Preston. The New Farm Kitchen is an event and education space constructed to exacting energy efficiency and environmental standards.
The space features a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and a 25-seat dining room, plus room for an additional 25 people on a covered patio. It also sports two bunkrooms to accommodate a few overnight guests. The New Farm Kitchen bills itself as “… a place for educators, food industry professionals and all those interested in increasing access to good food to meet, learn and cook.” It’s a great location for corporate retreats, fundraisers, educational activities and pop-up dining.
The New Farm Kitchen also hosts a series of seasonal dining events. “Each dinner will be unique, and will feature produce grown just a few metres from where it is served,” says Preston. These are private dining experiences for groups of up to 24 people (individual tickets are not sold). The multi-course meal comes complete with wine and drinks and the price is all-in. Meals are crafted by well-known local chefs and/or food industry professionals.
If you choose to book The New Farm Kitchen for an event (or even if you don’t), consider picking up a copy of the Preston-penned book The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution. It’s an extremely entertaining read that details the trials, tribulations and ultimate rewards of uprooting from the pressures of city living to experience the very different pressures (and pleasures) of establishing an organic farm from scratch — and watching it succeed.
Of course, there’s another possibility when it comes to having a food and wine experience tailor made for you.
Chef Eyal Liebman and sommelière Rebecca Meïr-Liebman are the team behind Chef & Somm Bespoke Dining Experiences. Find a location — maybe your place, maybe someone else’s (boardrooms and yachts are also fair game if you’re a Wolf of Wall Street type) — and, as long as it has a kitchen, the Chef & Somm team will craft a five-star dinner for you and pair each course with perfect (and often surprising) wine choices.
Be it an intimate dinner for two or a soirée for a group of up to 35 (better be a large yacht), the Chef & Somm duo works with clients to come up with luxurious, custom dining experiences that showcase culinary art.
“A musician turned into a cook, with a detour through film and theatre, Eyal is an artist first and a cook second,” explains Meïr-Liebman. “His food walks the thin line between art and flavour. He tells a story through his menus, and brings an artistic expression to his plates. Each menu he creates is a one-off.”
Meïr-Liebman goes on to explain that the wines served are chosen not merely for their quality, but also for how they connect to the “culinary story” the duo is telling. “Wine,” as she eloquently notes, “can’t be judged just by quality of juice. Do we appreciate the differences between Picasso and Dali by the quality of paint they used or maybe how they stretched the canvas? The story of the food is often tailored to match the story of the wine in our dinners.
“The experience that we give is beyond tasty food and delicious wine — that combination is easy to find! It is something that most restaurants offer. We walk you through a story that is tailored to each one of our clients — the food, the wine, the atmosphere — everything is bespoke with us.”